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I am trying to backup my home directory using rsync, and I want to exclude some of the directories that contain junk. I want to specifically exclude /home/ben/.ccache and /home/ben/build. Unfortunately the documentation for rsync was information overload and didn't answer my question. This is what I tried:

rsync -arv --exclude "/home/ben/.ccache:/home/ben/build" /home/ben /media/ben/thumbdrive/

What is the right way to do this?

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Just wanted to say that the flag a implies r already :) -a, --archive archive mode; equals -rlptgoD (no -H,-A,-X) – Populus Apr 17 '15 at 13:32
up vote 65 down vote accepted

OK I feel really dumb. Before I even posted this question my friend showed me how to do it and it is really simple. To exclude multiple directories you just use multiple --exclude=path switches. So my command above properly written is as follows:

rsync -arv --exclude=.ccache --exclude=build /home/ben /media/ben/thumbdrive/
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The exclude is relative to the "source" directory I believe, so those excludes should really be: --exclude '.ccache' --exclude 'build'. The way they are written above, they would be excluding: "/home/ben/home/ben/.ccache" which is not what is wanted. – Seanchán Dec 1 '13 at 22:38
Yes you're right! I fixed the example. Thanks! – Freedom_Ben Dec 2 '13 at 2:52
I believe using Absolute Paths will always work and is preferred IMO, this way you don't need to be inside the correct directory when running the command, for example if you wanted to use it in conjunction with Rsync as I plan to. – FreeSoftwareServers Sep 5 '15 at 2:26

When having multiple directories and/or files to exclude, make a text file and use the --exclude-from switch. Make a file called exclude_me.txt and in it list your exclusions. Example (/home/ben/exclude_me.txt):


Then your rsync would look something like:

rsync -arv --exclude-from='/home/ben/exclude_me.txt' /home/ben /media/ben/thumbdrive/

This is some information on filter rules that may help:

  • /dir/ means exclude the root folder /dir
  • /dir/* means get the root folder /dir but not the contents
  • dir/ means exclude any folder anywhere where the name contains dir/

  • Examples excluded: /dir/, /usr/share/directory/, /var/spool/dir/ /var/spool/lpd/cf means skip files that start with cf within any folder within /var/spool/lpd

Also see the filter rules section on the man page.

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Good tip, thanks! +1 – Freedom_Ben May 19 '14 at 22:01
Thanks, +1, but you missed = makes it fail in --exclude-from. Should be --exclude-from=. – Ilia Rostovtsev Feb 12 '15 at 12:35

You can also exclude multiple paths within curly braces:

rsync -arv --exclude={.ccache,build} /home/ben /media/ben/thumbdrive/
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this works nicely, just not under sh, only under bash, I found out "the hard way" – xxor Oct 1 '15 at 9:56

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